Editorial Feature

What is Timbercrete?

The construction industry faces a significant issue with sustainability and its environmental impact. Consider the use of concrete: while it possesses the physical properties necessary for structural applications, its manufacture is responsible for around 8 % of total global CO2 emissions.

What is Timbercrete?

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Sustainability issues are also becoming a key concern for the industry. For instance, materials such as sand and limestone are depleting.

To reduce the environmental impact of construction and promote sustainability, the development of new technologies and processes, as well as the use of sustainable materials, is required. This article will explore one such innovative green material, Timbercrete.

Understanding Timbercrete Composition

Timbercrete is an innovative green material that shares many properties with conventional concrete while possessing a vastly lower carbon footprint. It consists of a mixture of concrete and sawdust, a sustainable byproduct produced by industries such as forestry and furniture manufacturing.

Aside from sawdust, small wooden chips, cement, sand, binders, and non-toxic deflocculating additives are used to produce Timbercrete.1 Deflocculating agents are used to reduce the apparent viscosity of the mix.

The primary components of Timbercrete are sawdust and Portland cement. The mass ratio of these two ingredients is around 20 % sawdust and 80 % Portland cement by weight.2

Timbercrete: Advantages and Disadvantages

The main advantage of Timbercrete is its potential to significantly lower the environmental impact of the construction industry. Widespread application of this material would reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions within the sector.

Timbercrete also offers a solution to the problem of waste accumulation in sawmills and related industries. For instance, there are over 1000 active sawmills in Nigeria, many of which struggle to dispose of their waste effectively. Redirecting this waste material to Timbercrete production could mitigate the environmental impact of these industries.3

Another environmental benefit of Timbercrete is the use of local materials. This reduces the cost and amount of transportation required, along with the associated carbon footprint. Waste wood can be locally sourced and added to concrete onsite. Timbercrete can also sequester carbon dioxide, boasting significantly lower embodied carbon than concrete and clay bricks.1

Aside from the environmental benefits, Timbercrete exhibits several advantageous properties that make it an excellent alternative to conventional concrete. It has favorable density and load-bearing capacity, acts as an excellent thermal insulator, is 2.5 times lighter than clay and concrete, provides good acoustic insulation, and is less porous than concrete blocks.

Compared to conventional masonry, the material’s higher insulation value improves the year-round energy efficiency of buildings. The lightweight nature of the material makes it easier and safer to handle while reducing the energy needed to put blocks into place. Panels and blocks can be easily nailed or screwed together. Timbercrete is also bulletproof: to date, no bullet has penetrated through a 200 mm block.

However, despite its numerous benefits, Timbercrete is not without its drawbacks. Its strength has not been conclusively established, and further testing is required before it can become a fully commercialized building material. The mixing process is also less standardized than that of concrete, leading to potential issues with quality control during manufacture.

Finally, there are potential health concerns. If waste wood is mixed with certain chemicals, it could impact the health of residents. An example of this would be formaldehyde.2

Utilizing Timbercrete in Sustainable Construction

This sustainable material holds potential for a wide range of applications. It could be used in various structures, from small domestic dwellings to large commercial and industrial buildings. Virtually every type of structure could benefit from Timbercrete’s physical, thermal, and insulating properties.

Timbercrete can also be used in landscaping design, offering a safer option for cladding panels due to its fire-resistant properties. It provides acoustic insulation for commercial buildings, highways, and multi-story apartment blocks. It could also be utilized in thermal insulation blocks and fireproof walls for apartment buildings.1

The Future of Timbercrete

Although relatively new, Timbercrete has piqued the interest of architects, industry professionals, and commentators due to its favorable properties and environmental benefits. It is increasingly used to create formwork, bricks, panels, pavers, and blocks in numerous innovative and sustainability-conscious construction projects.

The construction industry’s role in anthropogenic climate change and the growing sustainability crisis concerning raw materials like sand have led to growing interest in alternative, more sustainable building materials with a lower carbon footprint.

Timbercrete is part of a growing list of greener concrete alternatives, including Hempcrete, Grasscrete, and even the aptly named Greencrete. These materials utilize alternative, sustainable, and low-carbon materials to replace some of the energy- and carbon-intensive, non-sustainable traditional cementitious materials in concrete.4 

As the construction industry moves away from traditional materials and working practices, this innovative material could play a vital role in the near future. Despite existing challenges, the broader issues facing the construction industry demand the development of concrete alternatives that can perform as well as this ubiquitous building material.

More from AZoBuild: A to Z of Green Building Materials

References and Further Reading

  1. The Constructor. (2024). Timbercrete: Components, Advantages, and Applications. [Online] The Constructor. Available at: https://theconstructor.org/building/timbercrete-components-advantages-applications/565251/
  2. The Uptide. (2021). Timbercrete Explained: Green Construction Guide. [Online] The Uptide. Available at: https://www.theuptide.com/what-is-timbercrete/
  3. Mogaji, IJ., Makanjuola, SA., Alake, O. (2023) Study on density and water absorption properties of timbercrete block. Materialstoday: Proceedings. doi.org/10.1016/j.matpr.2023.08.037
  4. Tradegraft. (2023). How-to: Construction, Concrete & C02 in 2023, Explained. [Online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/tradegraft/construction-concrete-c02-why-alternative-materials-matter-93f3c9b0d3d0

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author expressed in their private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited T/A AZoNetwork the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and conditions of use of this website.

Reginald Davey

Written by

Reginald Davey

Reg Davey is a freelance copywriter and editor based in Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Writing for AZoNetwork represents the coming together of various interests and fields he has been interested and involved in over the years, including Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences, and Environmental Science.


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